Michael Shank Racing drivers John Pew and Ozz Negri have moved into a tie for second in the Daytona Prototype drivers' points after a hard fought top five finish in the Rolex Series' first race on Detroit's Belle Isle track.
The tight street course gave the advantage to the Corvette DP entries leaving MSR and others running the Riley design struggling for crucial downforce in the two hour race. However, pit strategy and a fine defensive driver from Brazilian Negri in the closing stages gave the Rolex 24 winners fifth place at the end of the two hour encounter.
Pew started the car, pulling it up to fourth place in the opening half hour before pitting under the race's first full course caution for a full service and for Negri to take over driving duties.
The team's strategic gamble was to make their final stop with half the race still to go. The decision allowed Negri to make up track position as other pitted, restarting in second place after another caution with 50 minutes remaining.
Having only taken on left side tyres during the stop Negri was up against faster Corvettes with fresher tyres. Spirit of Daytona and Action Express Racing Corvettes snuck through leaving Alex Gurney in the no.99 fighting to pass Negri. Despite some questionable driving from Gurney Negri held on to fourth place until just two minutes from the end when the combination of the Corvette's superior downforce, fresher tyres and physical driving found a way past through.
“The crew gave me a great track position,” said Negri. “I knew it was going to be hard to hold the position but I just had do what I am paid to do and I thought I was doing a fine and honest job. There were a lot of other guys that passed me from behind and I had no problems with them.”
“I never expected a champion like Alex to do what he did. He tried to push me off many laps during the green and then–under yellow–he tried to push me into Pruett! So I had to go on the brakes and lock everything up not to hit Pruett. But all in all, it's a good result. We are P2 in the championship. We just have to get equal fields here because we are not in the same field with the Corvettes. It was a good team effort and I just gave my all.”
Mike Shank praised the Brazilian; “Ozz really put it on them today. I thought he did a great job. Our car wasn't great, but he really kept everybody behind him for a long time. I couldn't ask any more from him today. And now we're going to Mid-Ohio P2 in the championship and it will be our first race at home as Rolex 24 Champions, so we are all really looking forward to a strong run next Saturday.”